Summer sexcapades spice up 'To Do List'
“The To Do List” is a summer romantic comedy that follows a methodical, college-bound teen (Aubrey Plaza) who hurls herself at her “virginity problem” through a summer course of study. And what follows is a raunchy romp, a “Bridesmaids” to the “Hangovers” of too many hormonal boy movies about taking that “Virginity Hit.”
Writer-director Maggie Carey has assembled a cast that's too old to be playing high-schoolers, set her story in the early 1990s and come up with a rude, sometimes-uproarious comedy that is as filthy as “American Pie,” with just a hint of that film's sentimental sweetness.
Plaza, of TV's “Parks and Recreation,” fearlessly puts it all out there as a teen who's put out that she hasn't “put out.” Her Brandy is nerdy, needy, and more funny / skinny than sexy-thin in a swimsuit. And she is obsessed with making lists. All it takes is a little peer pressure from her supposedly more-experienced pals (the hilarious Alia Shawkat and Sarah Steele) to make her add “losing it” to her prep-for-college list — right after “buy shower shoes.”
Filthy Fiona (Shawkat) knows every form of sex and every euphemism for it that 1993 Boise, Idaho, can provide. Brandy, ignoring the insults of her oversexed sis (Rachel Bilson, perfectly cast) and clueless concern of her parents (Clark Gregg and Connie Britton), takes a turn toward sin and away from the Mormon kids' graduation-night party the moment she finishes her valedictorian speech.
Ever on task, she keeps sweet and worshipful Cameron (Johnny Simmons) as a sexual-experience backup.
But her first day as lifeguard at the local pool, she picks out the hunky Rusty (Scott Porter) and plans her summer's big finish.
Plaza is brilliant at playing someone smart and yet blithely incompetent at the social-sexual demands of her peers.
Bill Hader is the slacker manager of the pool where Brandy tests her methods, Christopher Mintz-Plasse is the would-be player who long ago stole the heart of poor Brandy-pal Wendy (Steele), and Andy Samberg has a cameo as a rocker wannabe.
Like most such comedies, the one-big-idea tends to wear thin, and Carey struggles to keep this bouncing along as it traverses that tightrope between and tee-hee and tasteless.
But the blank-faced Plaza never lets up and never lets on that Brandy is on anything less than a quest: for life experience, liberation and — dare we hope it? — love.
Roger Moore reviews movies for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.